Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who's the Culprit?

Photo by Paul Copeland

The homes that were recently destroyed by tornadoes bring up the usual questions: Why do bad things happen to good people? Where was God? If God is loving, why did he allow this to happen? And so forth. But rarely does the mainstream media ask, why is there so much good in the world, when there are so many who are bad? Or more importantly, what is evil?

In the Christian community, either out of compassion or misguided theology we sometimes bypass the problem of evil by passing it along to things that are in themselves neither good nor evil. The tornadoes are evil, war is evil, hurricanes are evil, guns are evil, and on and on. But what is evil?

Is Wisdom Elusive?

What gives me more of handle on this subject is what Jesus says in his parable about the wise and foolish builders. The wise builder builds his house on solid rock. He digs deep in preparation long before he starts constructing his home. The foolish man chooses to build on sand. He found it easier to get his house up on this type of foundation. Eventually each man experiences a bad storm. The wise man goes through the storm with his house intact, while the foolish man's house suffers a total collapse. The point of the parable is not about houses, storms, or physical foundations. On the other hand, we need to understand these things to understand Jesus' point.

The problem wasn't the storm. In other words, the storm was doing what storms normally do. (We can discuss the effects of the fall for another time, but suffice it to say that the storm hit both men's houses with equal force.) The problem wasn't necessarily foundational, although the foundations were the reason one house stayed intact while the other fell. The problem Jesus' was revealing is that each man had the power to choose where he would build his home. And the avoidable disaster was a result of a poor choice.

If we choose to live in an area where hurricanes are frequented, or earthquakes are common, or tornadoes visit every so often, we should be prepared for their eventuality. If we don't know, that's another issue. But if we do know, and yet choose not to prepare, we cannot blame God, the weather, nor the government for our disaster. However, if we didn't know, nor are able to prepare, and yet we are living in the will of God, God promises to make it right in time (Romans 8:28, James 5:10-11).

This doesn't mean that people who know God and are loved by him will not experience rough times. (Ask me about my last two years.) It also doesn't mean that if we do everything right we won't experience tragedy. The point is that we have a choice before, during, and after times of trials and suffering, and that choice can determine what our future will become like. (Hebrews 12:7-13, Philippians 3:17-21)

In Jesus' parable about the wise and foolish builders his point was that people who are wise listen to him. Those who choose not to listen to him are foolish, and will suffer a great loss. Whatever we choose to build our lives upon we will all experience some sort of suffering. The issue is that we have the opportunity to choose between total collapse or weathering. Which way do we want to go?

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